Foreword to this Edition
This is indeed a very long foreword when one considers the length of the original, however there was a very important subject for me to address, and for that reason the words flowed so perfectly for me, that this was the only way I knew how to express this foreword.
I shall be completely honest here, I had written this new foreword once already, and received some feedback, and it was self evident from that feedback that I had been way off the mark that I was intending to strike. I am not entirely certain how it came about that the subject of the joy and wonder of one's female gender and womanhood turned into a rather confused, contentious and indeed misunderstood piece that set a tone of 'making do' and things being as good as they get. If anything, it proves that even someone who considers writing to be one of their defining talents can really miss the mark terribly. This time around I am going to do not just myself justice but to the women I am representing in my writing.
This book beyond all other factors should at least begin to show the amazing and joyous things that come of one's successful transition into womanhood and subsequent assimilation. Indeed for the person afflicted by a crisis of gender, associating themselves as being female but trapped in the wrong body as per the well used cliché or indeed of an intersex condition (like myself) and raised as the wrong gender; finally having the chance to grow and develop physically as well as socially as a woman brings joys beyond all that we would have known. We possibly imagined them, but no one can prepare you for your own experience and journey, because it will be an incredible one, and one full of experiences, happiness, joys and pleasures beyond perhaps the wildest of dreams. These things that we will appreciate and cling to so dearly when they come to you, because they will come, keep your dream alive - simply because you deserve to make your dreams reality.
One of the key matters that dogged this foreword in its original incarnation was in fact the expression of perhaps the less than joyous aspects of womanhood which was a total contradiction from the intended sentiment. Let's take a step back in time, to when I was thirteen, the year is 1996 and the winter was setting in hard, the temperatures lingered around forty degrees with a bitter wind, and nobody was allowed inside the school buildings itself during lunch times. At the time I was still socially living and seen as male, there are no two ways about it, I was seen as a boy, I was living as a boy (no matter how I felt inside, that was the role I was living against my own choice) and that is what was expected of me, a boy.
It is of course a well known fact that I did not identify as male, or indeed as a boy, it is self evident for this book that I identified as female, I was female, and I was a girl and of course that is the case today. But we are not in 2005, it's 1996 - almost ten years ago, and all I can remember is sitting sometimes on my own in the playground just looking at every other girl around me and feeling absolutely awful, for myself. I could see there smiles, their laughs, the little song of joy that seeped from their lips in each other's company. I could see their care-free attitude with their singing along to the current records of the time, and their dancing motion as they visibly loved life, and were enjoying it with an innate naïve attitude. Every girl who I looked at in the groups I yearned to be a part of had a smile on each of their faces. I could feel my whole body yearning for a single moment where I could be with them and be as one with the girls I admired so deeply. And whilst I felt a deep sense of despair, at the same time I began to feel the tiniest amount of joy that they were experiencing, the special bond between women and the wonderful experience of female life that sometimes becomes a little lost, but one that can never be taken away.
My gazes of wonderment would see them flicking through teen magazines, chatting about fashion, make up, hairstyles, music and - boys. I could see them flicking their hair gently, sometimes they would even try out the hairstyles that the magazines had within them on their girl friends and either fall about laughing if it did not look right or rally around when they really felt a style suited one of their fellow girls. Such a warm loving friendship that I was fast learning that only women can experience in such a wonderful, joyous and gentle way, and I could feel that warmth - and if anything it was the warmth that lead me to doing what I had to do.
I would often see the girls I admired with such fondness entering the girl's restrooms, and later coming out with the cheeky hint of lip gloss or lipstick that rebelliously they had snuck on to those joyful and smiling lips, rebelling against the rules of the school, I liked that nature. Their little games of flirtations with boys and the warmness they sought from male company, the very subtle movements they made on the boys who gave those girls that wanted attention. Seeing them reach a lone finger out to touch their hands, or moving their legs to touch so gently, or their legs crossed as their foot gently moved in a circular motion, that starry-eyed look that they gave. There was so much joy and beauty in their whole way of life that whilst made me so jealous, it also made me incredibly happy knowing that they held something so special, something that I yearned for so deeply myself and left the most important impression on me - that though I yearned for the physical 'transformation' of my body to be female at long last, but that I also began to crave and yearn the social assimilation of being a young girl in society - so that I could share in those deep, warm and loving worlds that they had.
In the intervening years, I made some efforts to 'encroach' upon those worlds, by beginning to in some aspects assimilate my girl-hood before I even began to transition or I was even out. I could see there were things that they were denied, and for this reason I began to push for girls to have more opportunities especially in physical education/sports at school at the school council meetings; and thankfully with a great deal of success. I did not do this for the affection, or the possible ego boost that some might seek, but I was doing it for my girls, because I could understand their angst at being excluded from doing certain sports and other activities at school. Whilst it would still take me time to fully take on board the full experience that one can only experience with assimilation into the female role and the feelings that they felt at being denied something they wanted to do in this case, I still did it for 'my girls' because this was at the time the best way I could reach out my hand to say "I'm with you every step of the way!". I may not have wanted to partake in those activities or sports, but it was doing something for the girls who did - learning the importance of being there, and sticking together.
As time went by, I began to soon have far more girl friends than I did boy friends again, and I was included. I was often sought for advice on relationships to get the 'male perspective' which I always felt was curious but nonetheless, I did what I wanted to do so badly in the years prior and that was be there for my girl friends to share their pains when they were low, to give them the reassuring hugs of shared loving friendship, and to encourage and support - and to also share in their joys and times of great happiness. This in itself was a great step forward, and though some of my boy friends of the time always felt it a little odd, I was glad that at long last being able to sit with these girls and giggle about the good, and to console and support during the bad around a table over a bottle of wine began to really bring home to me the shared affinity that women have between us, and it was that that made sure of my transition because for me to socially assimilate as the girl I dreamed to be, I needed to change physically as I desired so heavily, and with that physical change would come the complete assimilation as a girl in society, and so that the girls I viewed with such great admiration as well as envy would no longer just be in my view, but rather I would become one of them as I so longed to be.
My time came soon enough, and my physical transition began, but I knew all too well that I did not wish to be locked into this stage of transition because my girlhood would not be defined by the physical development of my female body, but rather that and the assimilation and full development socially as a girl. The joy of seeing my body grow and finally develop along the lines of which were natural to my mind was a joy beyond all those I had ever experienced up to that point, when I began to feel the tenderness of my budding breasts and the softness of my skin emerge, and seeing that little starry glint grow in my eyes that I had seen in the girls I admired so deeply in '96. If anything having the right body was my passport to the freedom and liberation that I would find in my emotional and social assimilation into female life. As time progressed it became all the more clear to me not to be locked into the stage of transition forever, because if I did that, I knew that I would fall short of all that I desired and dreamed of.
This is by no means an instruction guide whereby A, B followed by C will lead to full assimilation into your womanhood - and maybe that is the point, this is something that comes from within. The birth of your body the way it was always meant to develop is your passport to exploring your identity and place in life as a woman, because there is no one place, and you will find your place within the female world. There are some women who positively cringe at the thought of martial arts for example but for some women that is there way of life, if anything this exemplifies the multiplicities of women's identities, however there are those bonds that run so deep that bring women together, and to me that will always bring me back to those moments at school where I looked on with such envy but the birth of a joy of seeing those girls just being girls and sharing the things that were so important to them in an innate loving and sensitive way.
Being able to develop socially and emotionally as the girl I so dreamed to be brings me experiences, wonders and feelings that are beyond all that I could have ever dreamt. It varies from the simplest of things from the girl's night in, with Chinese ordered in, a few girly videos, a couple of bottles of wine - simply magic. The conversation, the laughter, and even the little gossip make for magic moments. Even though we are now past the age of thirteen, the very same things the girls were discovering then we are still enjoying now and I am part of it. To me there is no better experience than doing each other's hair and choosing outfits, deciding on our makeup and helping each other before we go to dance the night away, to have some real fun, to have a laugh and embrace, cherish and revel in our burgeoning girlhood. Whilst for all my girl friends this is not a new experience, it is not for me either as I have also been living in my female role now for a good length of time - and nothing seems to ever dwindle that wonderful fun loving attitude that we have as girls. We may not go out looking for a man, we may not even go out to get a kiss, but we may go out to flirt and laugh the night away, and before we know it we are back at a friend's apartment singing into the small hours of the morning all huddled bumping to the sweet hip hop grooves and singing along doing what we do best, and that's having fun.
Every time I am with the girls shopping and lunching, running through the reduced racks and gawping at the awful things that lurk within and the stellar bargains hidden within, trying not to giggle in the changing rooms at one of our girls when the outfit she has tried on simply does her no justice, and rallying behind her when that super cute outfit just does her wonders. And then it might be on to lunch, so what is on the menu, it would have to be a bottle of the cheap wine, a shared pizza maybe and where we will take our tired feet next because there is still five hours of shopping left before the shops close!
If anything this is just a very small portion of the joy I have found in my life in my assimilation into my girlhood, and I am so profoundly grateful for the deep joy and wonder that it has brought me, and will bring so many others if this is truly what they seek and desire. So if you were looking today at the girls in the street, who seemed to be a world away from the anxiety, discomfort, envy, pain and the many myriad of feelings that being in the wrong body brings, see their starry eyed glint, that little bit of joy that escaped through those lips? If you want that, you will achieve that. There is so much more beyond physical transition in our journey, because for me having my own body was only half the journey for me, the other half was sharing in that joy that I always viewed from afar. The things I fantasised so deeply about are now a reality every single day, even if I am on my own, just knowing that I am walking down this street, with that confident playful bounce in my stride, seeing the reflection in the windows as I glide by blissfully, seeing the clothes I yearned to wear to express my inner being and personality, a face that is familiar and comfortable to me, and just knowing I am treated in society as one of the girls, it's a joyous and wonderful thing.
The things I have done in the past few years are self evident of my liberation, the feeling I got when I was sitting at Heathrow airport (London, UK) waiting for the call for the Chicago O'Hare bound British Airways flight, by myself was a thrill beyond anything I had experienced before. I was there, on my own, flying thousands of miles away, I would never have done this before! My experience has been truly liberating, my spirit as a girl has been set free, my happy go lucky nature is out, and I am loving every single waking moment of it. Sometimes when I go to bed at night, I can lay there with a smile on my face, not because some cute guy is in my life, but because I am ecstatic inside at every day that I spend as myself. I find myself saying the most simple, but profound things to myself, I love being me, I love my life, I love being a girl. My gratitude is eternal.
I think if we all look deep down inside of us, we will truly agree that living as a girl is not the physical transition alone, it is much more substantial, something that compounds the joy of the physical coming of our female bodies and multiplies the joys we experience many-fold. And if we make it, it's a huge reward for ourselves, but a reward in knowing that we can now make the impact on our girl friends in the way we long desired.
I have been there at the best of times for my girls, I remember the profound thrill I got from being asked if I could do my housemate's hair and make-up for her graduation ball - the acceptance and joy I felt in that was something beyond anything I could ever have dreamt. And beyond that, meeting the approval of the other girls and being complimented was a wonderful feeling, to feel embraced and as one.
But it hasn't all been the bed of roses, I have been there for my girls when times have been hard. On two occasions now I have had girl friends who have been worried sick they were pregnant, and I was the one they wanted by them when they took the home pregnancy test, to give them the hugs and words of support and love.
As I have said there are so many multiplicities of womanhood and how we take that on, for me - being there for my girls is the most important thing for me, I truly want to be able to give them something, even if it's a smile when they feel a little glum, because I hate to see a sad face!
I think the most striking point to make about this, and to end on is that I don't think I will ever fully 'assimilate' or make it to a stage where one meets an unequivocal level of being a girl. How can I say this? Quite easily.
I do not think there will be a day where I do not find a newfound joy, happiness or pleasure of being a girl, and yes there are moments like PMT that can make us feel wretched, but it passes, and our joy is never far away.
There will always be something new, something that adds to me as a person, as a girl, and that defines my personal experience of my girlhood. Something that makes my feet twitch, that makes my lips smile broadly, that brings the twinkle to my eyes, that makes me reach that lone finger out to feel a man's touch when I flirt. My simple message to leave you with is…
…being a girl is a deeply profound joy.
Original 2002 Foreword